I contacted several MNPS food service staff members at area schools to ask them about their work environment which the email made me question right away. No one wanted to go on record for fear of losing their jobs but all agreed that email that I read was a glimpse behind the drawn shades of a school system that has become synonymous with devaluing its support staff.
Jump to Gemna's blog to see the offending cartoon and get more details. These allegations are chilling for MNPS given that they come on the heels of a complaint filed against Jesse Register for "overreaching" and attempting to "silence" MNPS support staff. What kind of climate do service workers weather under the MNPS umbrella?
By the way, this is not the first time Director Nelson has had his oversight scrutinized. In 2004, MSNBC found conditions in Metro school cafeterias in bad shape under his watch:
...unlike last year [when new crews popped in], there were no mouse droppings under food service lines. But mice still roam other parts of some Nashville school cafeterias.
But the Nashville school district had its most serious problems with food temperatures, worse than any other city we visited. When checking hamburgers, one of the most dangerous foods if not cooked thoroughly and held at 140 degrees, inspector Steve Crosier couldn't believe his eyes as the thermometer needle fell. It finally bottomed out at around 78 degrees.
Hansen: "How quickly does bacteria grow, bacteria that could make a kid sick at 78 degrees?"
Prof. Berg: "It grows really, really quickly. 78 degrees, 110 degrees, these are optimum temperatures for bacteria. Not for us."
Cold pizza may be a staple around college dorms, but health officials say it could pose a danger for a young child if not kept at 140 degrees to kill bacteria. At 60 degrees the pizza was 80 degrees too cold.
Prof. Berg: "It is that cheese. It's almost like a Petri dish with bacterial growth."
At McGavock High, inspectors saw something a lot scarier than cold pizza -- shards of glass mixed in with fruit in a cooler. Apparently, the light shield, the metal cover that goes over the glass dome shield, fell.
Jerry Rowland, Health Director: "I can't remember the last time that I saw an inspection where there was glass inside a food in a school cafeteria or in a restaurant."
Inspectors also found a fifty pound bag of USDA-donated flour in a storage room infested with bugs. Jay Nelson is the head of food services for Nashville schools.
Hansen: "Don't the people look around and say, this needs to be cleaned. This has bugs. This is rotten. This is at the wrong temperature. Before kids come in to eat in these rooms?
Jay Nelson: "Chris, I would have fully expected that happens. But as we can see it doesn't."
Hansen: "How can you guarantee that the next time we come down here, we won't see some of these very same things?"
Nelson: "Chris I'd be a fool to guarantee you that you're not going to see some of the very same things. What I want to see is our total scores of all the schools improving, and continually improving."
Maybe it's good news that the MNPS dining services brain trust is no longer having to defend alarming food conditions in its cafeterias. Is it too much to expect that Mr. Nelson find a way to stop imposing demeaning cartoons on rank-and-file workers?
UPDATE: MNPS's cartoon fiasco hits the airwaves.